Laughing at Hoggy
Hogg is in trouble after announcing on twitter that he had raised the Aussie flag to celebrate Australia Day, and then written 'Allah is a shit' on it, to make sure that 'it would offend Muslims'. After both Muslims and non-Muslims took offence, Hogg got himself in worse strife by insisting that his remark was an attempt at 'Aussie humour'.
Hogg nowadays apparently makes a living as an after dinner speaker, but back in the summer of 1982/83, when I was staying in Victoria and being introduced by relatives there to the great game of cricket, he opened the Australian bowling attack alongside Dennis Lillee.
For me, and for the Kiwi batsmen who had to face him that summer, Lillee was a scary guy. With his mean smile, his thick and inflexible moustache, and the gold crucifix which dangled over his hairy chest, Lillee resembled one of Al Pacino's sidekicks in Scarface or Carlito's Way. His run-up seemed endless, until he finally reached the bowling crease and used a high, dramatic action to send the ball jagging out of the pitch and into the ribs of John Wright or Bruce Edgar. My Aussie relatives were a jingoistic lot, but even some of them were hostile to Lillee. I remember an elderly Aunt calling the great fast bowler a "thug", and then recalling how he had kicked Javed Miandad in 1981, after the unfortunate Pakistani batsman got in his way while taking a run. An enraged Miandad started to swing his bat at Lillee, as if it were a club. Undeterred by his lack of weaponry, Lillee grinned and put his dukes up, and it was only the intervention of an umpire which stopped the scrap. I was too cowed by Lillee to express open animosity towards him, even from the apparent safety of the living room in my grandmother's house, where I would sit watching day after day of cricket. I did, however, enjoy mocking Rodney Hogg, a bowler who had all of Lillee's aggression but none of his gravitas. Where Lillee was tall and tanned with flowing dark hair, 'Hoggy' was squat and pink-skinned, with a ridiculous crop of light ginger hair. Whenever Hogg was irritated - and he was irritated often - his skin would become pinker still, and his sunburnt ears would seem to swell. After Lance Cairns hit him for successive sixes, during a legendary innings in the second final of 1982/83 World Series Cup, Hogg was so full of colour that he resembled an enormous lobster. If Lillee's anger was terrifying, Hogg's was amusing.
Hogg's most famous clash with a bastman is featured in Fire in Babylon, the acclaimed 2010 documentary about the politically motivated, all-conquering West Indian cricket team of the late 1970s and '80s. During the Windies' 1979/80 tour of Australia, Hogg decided to try to transfer their star batsman Viv Richards from the cricket field to hospital. With his Rastafarian wrist bands, his super-aggressive batting style, and his refusal to bring any protective gear except a floppy cap and a piece of chewing gum to the crease, Richards was, in the opinion of Hogg and his Aussie team mates, a cheeky darkie overdue for a fall. Hogg began to pepper Richards with bouncers, and in the second test of the series he got a ball to fly off a dodgy Melbourne pitch into Richards' face, which was, as usual, unprotected by a helmet. Richards took the blow on the mouth, straightened up and faced Hogg, and spat a bloody tooth onto the pitch. Hogg returned to his mark and, with a massive boozed-up crowd chanting his name, ran in and bowled another bouncer at Richards. Instead of stepping aside or ducking the delivery, the great batsman hooked it into the stand for six. As Hoggy stood in the middle of the pitch and watched the ball disappear, he seemed to get pinker by the second. Richards continued smashing Hogg, until the bowler limped off the Melbourne Cricket Ground with figures off none for fifty-nine from six overs and a ripped muscle. He didn't play test cricket again for a year.
Hogg liked to serve up bouncers, but when he batted he struggled to cope with the inevitable retaliation from opposing fast bowlers. Richard Hadlee was able to bowl bouncers without varying his action or expending any extra effort, and unlike Lillee and Hogg he chose to use the delivery only sparingly. Hadlee's subtle approach to the bouncer made him especially dangerous, and in the middle of that long hot summer of 1982/83 he struck Hogg, who was not wearing a helmet, on the side of the head. As blood poured out of one of his ridiculous swollen ears and the Aussie commentators fulminated hypocritically about dangerous bowling, Hogg was escorted from the field.
After being sconed by Hadlee, Hoggy the batsman seemed preoccupied with spotting and avoiding bouncers. Sometimes he even treated yorkers - balls aimed at the sandshoes rather than the head - as if they were bouncers, as this bizarre dismissal to Viv Richards' team mate Michael Holding shows:
Retirement seems to change the personalities of some cricketers - who would have guessed that Ian Chappell, the ruthless Aussie captain who threw Lillee at cowering enemies during the 1970s, would become a critic, on humanitarian grounds, of the Howard government's treatment of refugees, or that Chris Lewis, the teetotalling English allrounder, would turn into a drug smuggler? - but it doesn't appear to have changed Hogg. He was buffoon on the field thirty years ago, and he's a buffoon off the field now. Keep the laughs coming, Hoggy.
[Posted by Maps/Scott]